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TV antiques expert to host sale of Beverley Minster’s artefacts

05 June 2023

Two Churches, One Town

Caroline Hawley with some of the artefacts for sale

Caroline Hawley with some of the artefacts for sale

THE TV antiques expert Caroline Hawley is helping to discover whether Beverley Minster, in East Yorkshire, has any “cash in the attic”.

Ms Hawley, who has appeared on the BBC1 programmes Bargain Hunt and Flog It!, runs an auctioneers and antiques business in the town. On 8 July, she will host a sale in the Minster’s south transept of unwanted or replaced artefacts stored in its roofspace and stoneyard. These range from wood carvings and masonry pinnacles to ironwork, pews, and an ancient wheelbarrow. Items donated by the public will also be auctioned off.

The proceeds will raise funds towards a £20-million appeal for urgent repairs to both Beverley Minster, which dates from the 11th century, and its neighbour, the Grade I listed St Mary’s, Beverley.

Ms Hawley said that the event was a rare opportunity to own items linked to the town’s history. “The pinnacles have become worn over many years, but some of the grotesques still have quite sharp features,” she said. “They are very special when you consider they go back as long as 750 years and they have been sitting on top of the Minster watching the town evolve. It’s so difficult, if not impossible, to put a price on them.”

The auction is being organised by the project Two Churches, One Town, which is supporting the Minster and St Mary’s. The project’s chairman, Tim Carlisle, said: “The churches ‘bookend’ the town, and, between them, determined the layout, character, and history of Beverley. The Minster is the largest parish church in England and is equal to the greatest of our cathedrals; St Mary’s is often described as one of England’s most beautiful parish churches.

“But the Minster choir roof is leaking in 250 places and the east window needs urgent repairs. Stonework from St Mary’s had previously fallen from the building and the tower needed restoration work. We are often asked what would happen if we just left them — well, they would just fall down.”

He continued: “The Minster is bigger than some cathedrals, but it is only a parish church, looked after by a normal congregation of one of three churches in Beverley. It is the same age as many of those big churches, and faces the same issues; but it’s a huge task to fix it. For instance, we can’t charge for entry. For York Minster [just 30 miles away], that’s a huge chunk of their income. It’s a different ball game.”

So far, £5 million has been raised by the appeal, which, Mr Carlisle said, indicated that there was support for keeping the two churches open. “They are big attractions, with around 60,000 visitors a year. They are important to the economy of Beverley; they act as a tourist magnet, bringing people from all over the world.”

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